Community Board Approves SPURA Redevelopment Plan, What’s Next?

Courtesy of NYC EDC

SPURA is one of the many adopted acronyms used to describe City’s division of neighborhoods. But unlike SOHO, NOHO, or Tribeca, SPURA is actually the name of a development site in Lower Manhattan, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, to be exact. The history of the site is a story of , economics and social pressures. After fifty years of debates between community leaders, activists and designers, the City Planning Commission has given a proposed development plan the green light. That means that following a land-use review process called ULURP, a city council vote and the Mayor Bloomberg’s final approval, the site may finally transition from a street level parking lot into a mixed-use development full of retail stores, offices, community facilities, a new Essex Street market, a hotel, a park and 900 apartments that will occupy 1.65-million-square-feet.

Join us after the break to read more on the development and to see other alternative creative proposals that this site has inspired over the years. (more…)

Dallas’s Disputed “Hot Spot”


The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas designed by Renzo Piano and the neighboring 42-story are embroiled in a dispute revolving around the adverse effects of glare reflecting into the Nasher’s interior gallery and garden. Currently in mediation over possible solutions, the topic certainly brings to light the implications involved in highly glazed high-rise construction and the surrounding buildings. More details after the break. (more…)

Eliminating Obstacles for Architects in Government Contracts

Today, Krueck+Sexton Architects principle Thomas Jacobs, , testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce in an effort to urge Congress to eliminate two impediments facing small architecture firms as they compete for government contracts. Jacobs argues that high design-build fees and lengthy “final teams lists” are prohibiting small firms from competing.

Continue after the break to read more. (more…)

A Lesson in Dedicated Collaboration: Hunts Point Landing on the South Bronx Greenway / Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects

© Economic Development Corporation

In the past decade New York City’s government, along with numerous organizations and design teams, have taken the initiative to revive the city’s public spaces and reclaim underutilized areas that have long been associated with the city’s manufacturing past.  We’re all familiar with the High Line, a project that takes over the elevated rail lines of Chelsea and Meat Packing District that until several years ago stood as a desolate and eroding piece of infrastructure,  which was beautiful in its own way but largely underutilized.  Then there is the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which has become a mecca for designers, fabricators and research companies and has recently acquired a museum to celebrate its history.   And of course, there are the city’s waterways, which, since New York City’s early history, have served its manufacturing and trade economy, have become parks along the waterfront as part of the Hudson River Greenway and the FDR Drive.  Manufacturing has long been replaced by Wall Street, but there are parts of the city that still retain the industrial past along the historic waterfront and continue to operate some of the most important facilities that allow the city to function.  Now it is time to reintroduce a public use among these industrial zones.

More after the break!

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AIA Oppose Effort to Repeal Energy Reduction Law for Federal Buildings

Last week, the American Institute of Architects () released a press release stating their opposition to a House proposal to eliminate Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. Basically, Section 433 is designed to free federal buildings from consuming fossil fuel-generated energy by 2030. Not surprisingly, the proposal is backed by the American Gas Association and the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition (FPCC), which includes members such as Chevron, Ameresco, Honeywell, and many more alike. However, as reported by Martin C. Pedersen on MetropolisMag.com, the surprising  fact is that some of the FPCC members are participating in the 2030 challenge and many are considered prominent in the field of energy efficiency.

Continue reading after the break for AIA EVP and Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy’s response. (more…)

Instant City: New City Lazika, Anaklia Region, Georgia

Just over four months ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia announced a plan to build a new city named Lazika in the Anaklia Region of northwest Georgia.  The news was driven by the desire to propel Georgia into a world market with an identity for the economic trade hub that its geographic location warrants.  Aside from a promotional video and a few scattered images on various Georgian websites, little has been exposed about the master plan that will give birth to the economic engine on the coast of the Black Sea, which leaves many wondering if this new city will in fact be built to solve Georgia’s economic and social problems.

According to a New York Times article by Ellen Barry, On Black Sea Swamp, Big Plans for Instant City, interviews with Georgian citizens indicate a variety of opinions about the viability of this “Instant City”. While some are excited about the prospect of a city strewn with skyscrapers, advanced , and glitzy hotels, others warn of the design challenges and flaws associated with building in the Anaklia Region, which Barry describes as “a stretch of marshy land”. But looking at the city from the perspective of urban design, many critics, from Lewis Mumford to Jane Jacobs will agree that the complex social, economic and political characteristics of a city develop over time, and most effectively when they occur organically after a series of trials and errors as a city develops its identity. Historically successful cities have acquired their identities not by spontaneous rapid growth but by the personalities of its citizens, planners, economists and politicians over many years.  What is striking about this planning of Lazika, indicated by Barry’s report, is that “only one official is working on the planning of Lazika full time” with 10 to 15 part time workers, and the idea “came to President Mikheil Saakashvili just over four months ago while researching the China’s development”.

More after the break… (more…)

The Neutra Embassy Building in Karachi, Pakistan: A Petition to Save Modernism

The Neutra Embassy Building in , Pakistan via Neutra Institute for Survival through Design

‘s Embassy Building in Karachi, Pakistan is a relic of the Cold War – an effort by the United States to express its authority and wealth in other countries.  The building is in the modernist style, designed in 1959, by an architect whose work is still admired today.  Until 2011, the Embassy was occupied by the U.S. General Consulate and was a symbol of modernity in Karachi.  The Neutra Institute for Survival through Design has begun a petition to help save this building from demolition.  It proclaims that this modernist icon is “the only surviving Neutra Structure in the region”.

More after the break. (more…)

Endangered Monuments Update: Preservation Efforts for the 510 Fifth Avenue Manufactures Trust Company Bank Branch

Manufacturers Trust Company by SOM © Landmarks Preservation Commission

ArchDaily previously ran an article about the Manufacturers Trust Company Bank Branch at 510 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan designed by of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and interior designer Eleanor H. Le Maire, a building designated as protected under the Landmarks Preservation Commission with first the exterior in 1997 and later the interior in early 2011.  But as recently as October 2011, the building was already listed under the 2012 World Monuments Fund  in the 2012 World Monuments Watch as the current owners, Vornado Realty Trust, began compromising the landmarked conditions of the interior of the building as it was being adapted for reuse.  With preservationists in an uproar, support for the protection of the building was enough to bring Vornado Realty Trust to State Supreme Court where a settlement was reached.

Read on for more details on the settlement and continuing efforts to protect endangered monuments. (more…)

Video: Investing in Real Infrastructure, Not “Bridges To Nowhere”

In this video, Brookings expert Robert Puentes discusses the importance of construction projects and investments that provide real and lasting value to the American . Puentes warns against thinly spreading around smaller infrastructure projects that only provide a short-term, seasonal boost in “shovel ready projects” that temporarily help job creation. Infrastructure investments can and must play a key role in the next American . Puentes urges that these smaller infrastructure projects must be connected to a larger infrastructure strategy that focuses on exports and globalization, technological innovation and clean energy. This will not only immediately create jobs and boost the , but also provide a framework that will sustain the American for the long term.

Also, if you are in the Washington DC area, Brookings will be hosting an event tomorrow, at the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings, to discuss low-carbon development and clean energy in the United States and China. Follow this link for more information.

On Oikonomia: Saarinen’s Ezra Stiles College Open After $55M Renovation

Ezra Stiles College under construction, 1961. Copyright Balthazar Korab Ltd.

, CONNECTICUT–Yale’s Ezra Stiles College, designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1961, reopened to students last month after a one-year, $55 million dollar . The project was the last in a complete overhaul of all the residential colleges at Yale, which started in 1998 and has cost over $500 million (adjusted for inflation).

Students are happy with the work, praising the new brick pizza oven in the dining hall, shift from single to suite-style rooms, and improved furniture and lighting. Jon Rubin ’12 told the Yale Daily News (YDN) the renovated Stiles is “definitely a step up” from the college he lived in two years ago.
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AIA Emphatically Urges Looser Credit, Notes 30% Drop in Architectural Employment Since 2008

Construction at 1 WTC, by ShinyThings VIA Flickr

The AIA has issued a “comprehensive look yet at the built environment’s role in economic recovery, highlighting six specific steps that will generate and help grow the American economy.” Coming on the eve of President Obama’s major initiative, the report cites George Mason University economist Stephen J. Miller in arguing that every $1 million in new construction spending supports “28.5 full-time, year-round-equivalent .”

Miller and the AIA blame tight credit markets blocking potential progress in this area. The publication, “The Built Environment’s Role in the Recovery,” is issued with this problem in mind. “We’re putting these recommendations forward now because it’s time for the Administration and Congress to get real about creating an environment in which people are willing to lend and borrow,” said AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA, quoted in a recent AIA press release. “When credit flows to worthy projects, it unleashes the job creation potential of the American economy.”

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Mayor Signs Contracts Drunk, Blames Design Firm

Mayor Resendiz, from his Facebook page via CURBED
Mayor Resendiz, from his Facebook page via CURBED

, N.M– Martin Resendiz, mayor of a small community near Las Cruces, admitted earlier this month to signing contracts with a San Diego–based parking design firm while drunk. The company, Synthesis +, is suing the city for nonpayment. Resendiz claims the contracts were never valid since the City Council did not approve them.

“The day I signed … I had way too much to drink. It was after 5 p.m. and I signed it (the contracts) and I didn’t know what I was signing,” Resendiz wrote in response to questions from Synthesis+ lawyers. “My sister had to pick me up.”

“Again, this was after two or three hours of us drinking, not exactly the best time to do business, not exactly the best time to read over legal documents, which he (Soltero) did not portray at any time to be legal documents,” Resendiz said in a deposition.

Soltero is a Synthesis+ executive. The deal is worth over $1 milllion; the drinking happened at Ardovino’s Restaurant in Sunland Park.

VIA The Washington Post and New Mexico Independent

UK “Architecture Minister” Mocks Profession, Cites Mr. Bean

MP (R) and Prime Minister David Cameron MP (L), johnpenrose.org

A minor transatlantic controversy erupted last month after UK “” aka Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with responsibility for architecture and the built environment John Penrose apparently compared architects with other negatively-stereotyped groups, noting architects are “just one of those groups people love to mock.” The comments were part of a longer blog post about Rowan Atkinson, Dreamland, and VisitEngland’s new Smartphone-based marketing campaign.

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The Decaying Dutch Harbor Bunkers

© Tom Doyle

Set against a backdrop typically reserved for postcards, the decaying bunkers of the Aleutian Islands Campaign serve to memorialize a little-known chapter of WWII lore. Read more about these distinctive relics after the break.

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Venice: City in Peril

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar - http://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/

is commonly regarded as one of the wonders of the world, attracting over 17 million tourists each year. However, the city of faces ongoing problems that threaten its ability to stay above water. The city’s issues are notorious around the world. Every year water surges through its legendary labyrinth of streets wreaking havoc on architectural gems such as the Palazzo San Marco. With its architecture under threat, and dwindling population as many young people flock to the mainland, it is appropriate to think of as a dying relic. (more…)

Why Politics Matter: Le Corbusier, Fascism, and UBS

Le Corbusier on the Swiss 10 franc banknote, © Will's Online World Paper Money Gallery

Le Corbusier’s politics are a divisive issue for architects and rightly so: his work is still highly influential, in both adoration and enmity, and his expressed political views are at odds with contemporary western democratic values.

It’s easy for the discussion of those views to lapse into a sort of ethical debate by-proxy, devolving into a discussion about whether or not Le Corbusier should continue to be included in the canon of twentieth century architects considering his apparent and sympathy for the Nazi party. Such narrow and moralistic inquiry negates other issues pertinent to Le Corbusier’s  place in history. It is possible to both be aware of Le Corbusier’s political affiliations and to discuss his work as an architect, urbanist, and designer for its own merits. By way of explanation, I would like to revisit a recent controversy concerning Le Corbusier.

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AD Classics: United Nations / Wallace K. Harrison

© United Nations Photo

Two years after the largest international peacekeeping organization was founded, the United Nations began searching for the location of their world headquarters.  After numerous offers from cities around North America, the United Nations settled on a 17 acre plot of land on the banks of the East River in City after John D. Rockefeller donated the land.  With the effects of World War II still looming throughout the world, the United Nations decided to invited prominent architects from the founding nations to work in collaborative, peaceful manner rather than holding a competition.

In 1947, the UN commissioned to lead the international design team to create their new world headquarters to be a symbol of the bright, peaceful future ahead that did not dwell upon the past.

More on the United Nations after the break. (more…)

AD Classics: Boston City Hall / Kallmann, McKinnell, & Knowles

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, © Daniel Schwen

As part of an international competition to design Boston’s City Hall in 1962, three Columbia University professors, Kallmann, McKinnell & Knowles, diverted from the typical sleek, glass and steel structures that were being requested by popular demand.  Rather than basing their design on the material aesthetics, their goal was to accentuate the governmental buildings connection to the public realm.

Completed in 1968, the Brutalist style city hall the public and private sectors of government through a gradient of reveal and exposure that allows the public to become integrated, either physically or visually, into the daily affairs of the governmental process.

More on the Boston City Hall after the break. (more…)